Thursday, May 23, 2013

If President Obama was a CEO, DOJ would hold him accountable for scandals

IRS… Benghazi… AP… the scandals are mounting in D.C.  Who’s to blame?

Well, if you use the standards that federal prosecutors apply to corporations, the president would be held legally responsible for any wrongdoing by federal workers—whether he knew what they were doing or not.

Like Sergeant Shultz from “Hogan’s Heroes,” President Obama insists that he knew nothing about the IRS targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups.  He only learned about it from media coverage of the Treasury’s Inspector General Report.

Similarly, he knew nothing about the Justice Department’s subpoena of phone records of AP reporters and editors.

As for Benghazi, we now know that his subordinates in the White House and the State Department edited the talking points that misled the public about what happened on September 11, 2012 although we still don’t know who in the line of command nixed any attempt to rescue Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans under attack by terrorists.

Let’s suppose he’s telling the truth: The president had no idea of what his subordinates were up to in any of these instances. How, then, could he be held legally responsible for what happened?

If Mr. Obama were CEO of a corporation rather than commander-in-chief, the Justice Department would certainly hold him accountable. 

For years, DOJ has used a “responsible corporate officer doctrine” to prosecute business owners and corporate officers for crimes committed by their subordinates—even when the bosses had no knowledge of, much less involvement in, the criminal conduct.

To convict a business executive, all the Justice Department has to do is prove that (1) an employee did something illegal on the job and (b) the executive was above that employee in the corporate organizational chart.

The President’s own Food and Drug Administration revised its regulatory procedures manual in 2011 to make it clear that a corporate officer can be criminally liable “without proof that the corporate official acted with intent or even negligence, and even if such corporate official did not have any actual knowledge of, or participation in, the specific offense.” The key is whether the “official had the authority to correct or prevent the violation.”

President Obama may well have been clueless that Eric Holder’s Justice Department had secretly seized AP phone records, or that IRS officials were slow-walking tax-exemption applications from conservative organizations that (according to the IG Report) had “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, “criticize how the country is being run,” or were “educating on the constitution and bill of rights.”

But the President is legally the head of the executive branch.  In the federal government’s organization chart, he is above everyone at State, Justice, and the IRS. He and his immediate subordinates, the cabinet secretaries, are responsible for the actions of all those in the departments they supervise and the policies those employees follow.  The enforcement and regulatory policies of the executive branch are, in fact, the special purview of the President, and he has “the authority to correct or prevent” the conduct that occurred.

So should the same rules apply to the government that apply to American businesses?  If the Justice Department believes that corporate officers and managers can be held responsible for their employees’ misdeeds–even when they knew nothing about them–shouldn’t a cabinet secretary or the President be held responsible for their employees’ misdeeds?

We won’t argue that the most senior federal officials in the executive branch should be held legally responsible for the actions of people not under their direct control.  But the same rule should apply to corporate officers being prosecuted by the federal government.  It is a sad day when the government holds itself to a much lower standard of responsibility than it applies to everyone else.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Israeli bombing in Syria may force Obama’s hand

Israel may be forcing the hand of President Barack Obama to become more heavily involved in the civil war in Syria.

Israeli jets have made three airstrikes on targets in Syria since January, going after Syrian weapons facilities, the Los Angeles Times reports. But it takes place as Syrian troops battle rebel forces from the Arab Spring two years ago in a bloody conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

The Obama administration has said Syrian use to chemical weapons would represent a clear signal that the U.S. had to get involved in the conflict. The Israeli airstrikes may push Obama even more to keep the civil war from growing into an all-out Middle East firefight as other Arab countries take offense over the Israeli attacks in neighboring Syria.

Obama can’t afford for Syria to suddenly garner sympathy from the Israeli action. The development also raises concerns about whether Iran might be Israel’s next target because of Iran’s growing nuclear threat in the region.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Obama Lauds National Teacher Of The Year

President Obama today praised the nation’s top teachers as he honored the Teacher of the Year, a Washington state teacher recognized for transforming his hometown school and peaking students’ interest in math and science.

In a Rose Garden ceremony, President Obama thanked winner Jeff Charbonneau, a chemistry, physics and engineering teacher at Zillah High School, for his leadership.

“Twelve years ago, when Jeff decided to return to his hometown to teach, Zillah High School had no engineering curriculum. The science curriculum was lagging. Kids had to go off campus for technology classes, and the computer resources were, frankly, pretty poor,” Obama explained. “But Jeff was determined to turn that around. He wanted to convince kids that something like quantum mechanics wasn’t something to run away from, but something to dive into.”

Now, thanks to Charbonneau’s help, science enrollment is up and students are graduating with college-level science credits.

The president also praised the heroic teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School who fought to save their students’ lives during the December massacre in Newtown, Conn.

“We saw the true depths of a teacher’s commitment when six educators were killed trying to protect the children they embraced as their own,” he said. “In those moments, those brave teachers showed the world what they do is more than just educate kids. They embrace them and they nurture them and they love them.”

The president joked that teachers don’t go into the profession “for money” or the “light hours and the easy work.” They walk into the classroom every day “because they love doing what they do, because they’re passionate about helping our children realize the best versions of themselves so that our country can become the best version of itself.”

“I want you guys to know that the country appreciates you. The kids appreciate you. The parents appreciate you. What you do matters,” he said.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Obama pushes gun-control measures in Colo. speech

President Obama is looking to rally gun control backers in Washington by trumpeting the success of allies in states like Colorado and Connecticut.

Facing a tough congressional fight in the coming weeks, Obama praised a new set of gun laws in Colorado Wednesday and said they are in line with what he wants to do nationally.

"I've come to Denver today in particular because Colorado is proving a model of what's possible," Obama said during a visit to the Denver Police Academy.

The president, who has a similar trip to Connecticut planned next week, said Colorado is showing that it's possible to enact "tougher background checks that won't infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners, but will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people."

The president's trip came as Congress prepares to return from its Easter recess next week, with gun control on the Senate agenda.

In the wake of a series of mass shootings -- particularly the Dec. 14 attack that killed 20 school children in Connecticut -- Obama and aides are pushing legislation that includes improved background checks for gun buyers, a renewed assault weapons ban and restrictions on the capacities of ammunition clips. Obama is also proposing programs to improve school safety and mental health treatment.

"The president wants to sign the strongest gun bill he can," said White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

Congressional Republicans and some Democrats object to many of the proposals, citing Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said the Democratic-run legislature in Colorado "rammed" through a series of bills, but that won't happen in Washington, D.C., because Republicans control the majority in the U.S. House.

"In holding Colorado up as a model for passing tough new gun control laws, President Obama is pursuing a model that will fail in Washington," Lamborn said.

The Denver speech began a brief western swing for Obama, including a trip to San Francisco Wednesday night for a pair of fundraisers for Democratic congressional candidates.

Colorado has been the site of two major major mass shootings over the past 15 years, at Columbine High School in 1999 and at a movie theater in Aurora in July. Legislators recently approved a new background check system and voted to limit the size of ammunition clips to 15 bullets.

At one point, Obama told the supportive crowd in Denver, "I don't believe that weapons designed for theaters of war have a place in movie theaters."

The Senate debate on a gun bill could begin as early as next week. But if a deal is struck by a bipartisan group of senators on a new background check provision, the debate could be delayed so that new language could be inserted into the bill.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are working on a version that could draw broader bipartisan support.

In his Denver remarks, Obama noted that the existing background check system has blocked many criminals from obtaining guns, but it contains loopholes that need to be tightened. The president said he respects the Second Amendment, that none of his proposals involve gun registration or confiscation, and that "well-organized, well-financed" critics are ginning up fears of what he wants to do.

The president also criticized possible plans to delay or obstruct a vote on some provisions, saying the victims of mass shootings deserve to have at least an up-or-down vote.

Next week, Obama is also likely to laud gun control legislative efforts in Connecticut when he speaks Monday at the University of Hartford. The school is some 50 miles from Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a package that includes background checks for all private and commercial gun sales. It would also ban the kinds of high-capacity ammunition clips used in the Sandy Hook shootings.

Lanae Erickson Hatalsky of the Third Way, which supports Obama on gun control, said the odds are against any kind of federal assault weapons ban or restrictions on ammunition clips, especially with Republicans in control of the U.S. House.

She is more hopeful about congressional legislation improving the background check system and cracking down on gun trafficking between states. Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy and politics for Third Way, said Colorado can serve as an example for lawmakers in Washington because it is a state where gun ownership rights are highly regarded.

"No gun vote is an easy vote," she said.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Preity Zinta doles out health tips to fans

 Sleep well, early breakfast, exercise and much more came from actress Preity Zinta, who decided to utilise her Sunday by sharing some fitness tips with Twitteratis who are following her.

The 38-year-old discussed various health issues and also gave away tips on eating habits and working out.

"It's Sunday and of course, a fun day, so it's time for Sunday chat. Are you guys all ready? Should I suggest a topic today. Sometimes we have serious, hectic chats and sometimes it's all fun and frolic! Today, I think, we'll chat about health, beauty and fitness," Preity posted on twitter.

"Do you know that eating within 10 mins after waking up is guaranteed to make you lose weight? If you skip breakfast, then god help you, so don't do it... If you don't sleep well, you tend to overeat the next day and in turn increase your chances of putting on weight," Preity posted.

"Having lots of water first thing in the morning can cure up to 23 diseases in your body, especially if it's kept overnight in a copper vessel. If you drink water with ice in it while training, it gives more energy. Also, it burns more calories," she added.

The actress, who has worked in movies like "Dil Se", "Kya Kehna", "Mission Kashmir" and "Dil Chahta Hai", emphasised on working out regularly.

"If you are exercising, it's very important to take steam and massages. Massages help in breaking down lactic acid in the body, which helps with stiffness. It's a misconception that workout drains your energy. On the contrary, it rejuvenates. I feel more energetic afterwards," she wrote.

Preity also feels weight training helps in toning and and is a very important part of fitness.

"3 times cardio and 3 times weight training is almost perfect. Best way to run is at intervals with brisk walking and never on an incline. Weights should be done with 30 second intervals. You get better results," she added.

The actress, last seen in a full-fledged role in 2008 movie "Heroes", will soon be seen in her production venture " Ishkq In Paris". 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gun Control Will Crowd Out Other Obama Policy Points

“To be very blunt with you, we’re counting on all of you, the legitimate news media to cover these discussions, because the truth is that times have changed.”

-- Vice President Joe Biden talking to reporters at a Philadelphia press confrence on the administration’s push for a gun ban.

How much political capital is President Obama willing to spend to achieve gun control?

The choice may not be entirely up to him.

Obama tonight will talk about many things in his fourth State of the Union address in an effort to goad his adversaries into action or increase the political penalties for their resistance.

He will batter Republicans on their refusal to accept his plan to replace part of automatic cuts to federal spending that begin at the end of the month with a tax hike on top earners. Expect to hear of dire consequences that will befall the nation if spending drops by $120 billion this year: unsafe medicines, hungry children, unsecured nukes, etc.

Obama will denounce foes of a rapid amnesty for illegal immigrants and call for additional stimulus spending to “invest” in middle-income jobs. That jobs plea will, as it has invariably become for Obama, be tied to global warming. Obama Democrats see the fight against changes in the earth’s climate as a twofer: it’s environmentalism and a jobs subsidy program.

There will be all of those things and more in what promises to be a flurry of policy provisions befitting a re-elected president determined to have a transformative second term. He may not match Bill Clinton’s record for longest-ever (1 hour, 28 minutes and 49 seconds in 2000), but Obama will certainly not be wrapping up quickly.

But whatever Obama talks about, it is likely to be overshadowed by his call for a gun ban in response to mass shootings and a steady tide of urban shootings, particularly in his hometown of Chicago.

The Constitution instructs the president “from time to time” to update Congress on the state of the union and “recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

The tradition since 1790 has been for presidents to do this once a year, but the Framers included the line in order to make sure that there was at least some communication between the legislative and executive branches.

Presidents since Woodrow Wilson have needed little encouragement to tell Congress what’s on their minds, especially the current chief executive. Obama talks to, about and around Congress constantly.

So all that Obama says tonight about immigration, taxes, stimulus and global warming will have been heard and re-heard by the lawmakers Obama is ostensibly there to talk to.

The real purpose of States of the Union addresses since Lyndon Johnson moved his speech to primetime from the sleepy midday affairs of his predecessors is to talk to the folks at home and to get the political press to restate your talking points.

The speeches are predictable news events that allow for lavish coverage and great pictures – lots of cheering, the big Stars and Stripes, etc. What the president says can be analyzed, re-analyzed and dissected for the evening, and, since Obama will give partial versions of the speech in three campaign stops, for days afterward.

But the full laundry list of policies won’t make it through the media wringer. Despite Obama’s claims that Washington can “walk and chew gum at the same time” he surely knows by now that it cannot.

In the case of this speech, it seems inevitable that his push on gun control will predominate. It’s an issue that his political base adores, it being an article of faith on the American left that limiting gun sales will reduce gun crime. Add to that the double bias in favor of the issue in the press – dramatic stories for the “if it bleeds it leads” set and a policy that fits overall view in the establishment press that firearms are bad.

To that end, the president will use the parents and survivors of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy and other victims of gun violence to personalize his message on gun control. Reports will follow these breadcrumbs and produce the stories that reinforce the president’s message.

People getting shot and killed makes for better copy than “sequestration” or “out-year entitlement reform” or “green jobs” or whatever fiscal and economic crisis the government and the nation are currently stumbling through.

But the risk here for Obama is that for all of his pivots and policy pounding, the speech may end up being recalled as one about gun control. On each subsequent retelling, the storyline will grow shorter and shorter but guns will never drop from the lead.

And given the deep resistance, even among some his own party, to gun control, in political conflict over the subject will never go away.

So, if Obama means to see gun control enacted in his second term, he will never have a better chance to sell it than he will tonight. But the president had better be prepared to sacrifice much of the rest of his agenda to make this a reality.

And even then, he will have to consider whether he wants to make this his legacy project especially when voters remain bleak-minded on the economy and the world grows more dangerous by the day.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obama pushes gun control proposals in Minnesota

With his gun proposals dividing Congress, President Barack Obama took his case for universal background checks and for banning some military-style weapons to the upper Midwest on Monday, looking to build public support for his measures and to apply pressure on lawmakers.

Obama argued that there’s bipartisan support for a system to undertake criminal checks on gun buyers and for gun trafficking laws but, acknowledging the political challenges he faces, would only say that the assault weapons ban deserves a vote in Congress.

‘‘We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something,’’ he said.

Before his remarks, Obama held a roundtable discussion at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, speaking with law enforcement and community leaders.

Obama made his pitch in Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning state where officials have been studying ways to reduce gun-related attacks and accidents for several years. His visit to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Special Operations Center will mark the first time Obama has campaigned on his controversial proposals outside of Washington.

‘‘Changing the status quo is never easy,’’ Obama said. ‘‘This will be no exception. The only way we can reduce gun violence in this county is if it the American people decide it’s important, if you decide it’s important — parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say, ‘This time, it’s got to be different.'’’

Ahead of the trip, the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David, the presidential retreat. Obama cited skeet shooting when asked in a recent interview whether he had ever shot a gun.

The president unveiled his sweeping package of proposals for curbing gun violence last month in response to the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. He vowed to use the full weight of his office to fight for the proposals, many of which face tough opposition from congressional lawmakers and the powerful National Rifle Association.

The reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, is expected to be the steepest climb for Obama. Universal background checks for gun purchasers may have an easier time passing Congress, though the NRA also opposes that measure.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said Obama remained committed to the assault weapons ban and that it was too early to write off prospects for any parts of the package.

‘‘We all recognize that all the components of this are difficult and face challenges, some perhaps even more than others,’’ Carney said. ‘‘But the president’s support is firm and clear.’’

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has said he hopes his panel can write gun legislation this month, though it’s unclear what it will contain.

The White House picked Minneapolis as the backdrop for Obama’s remarks in part because of recent steps the city has taken to tackle gun violence, including a push for stricter background checks.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

President Obama sounds off on football violence, safety

President Obama admits in a soon-to-be released article in the New Republic that it would be a tough decision to let a son play football.

The father of two daughters also said that football will probably become a less violent game in the future out of concern for player safety.

"I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," Obama told the New Republic. “I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.

“In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.”

Obama expressed particular concern for college players, who don't get paid to play and don't have the same representation as professional players.

“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” he said, adding:

“You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obama wins 'fiscal cliff' victory, but at high cost

 President Obama, who campaigned on raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, has fulfilled that promise even before his next term starts.

The announcement Monday night of Senate agreement on a compromise to avert part of the "fiscal cliff" meant that for the first time in two decades, Republicans in Congress were preparing to vote in favor of a bill that raised taxes, an extraordinary concession to the nation's fiscal woes and the president's reelection.

But Obama's victory fell short of what he had campaigned for, and came at a high cost. Even if the House later Tuesday or Wednesday musters the votes to approve the bill that the Senate was to vote on in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the terms of this compromise guarantee another pitched battle over spending and taxes within months.

Whether the agreement announced Monday evening turns out to be truly a victory for Obama or a lost opportunity, as many of his liberal critics feared, will depend heavily on how that next battle turns out.

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The agreement to freeze income tax rates for most Americans while allowing them to rise for the wealthiest dealt only with the most pressing elements of the fiscal storm Congress and the president created last year. A newly elected Congress will begin work in a few days and immediately will need to start negotiating yet another deal. That next fight will be aimed at further reducing the long-term deficit and raising the debt ceiling before the government runs out of money to pay its bills — a deadline that will hit sometime in late February or March.

The persistent battle over spending, which already has consumed Washington for two years, threatens to block Obama's other major legislative priorities, including immigration reform and gun control.

Moreover, to get a deal, Obama had to accept far less new revenue than he had wanted. In his reelection campaign, Obama had called for raising taxes on income over $250,000. The compromise starts the increases at $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. Overall, the deal is projected to raise about $620 billion in new revenues over the next 10 years, almost $1 trillion less than Obama had asked for.

Without that extra revenue, White House officials have said, the nation eventually will face punishing cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other domestic programs. Concern that the deal included too little revenue led liberals in the Senate to threaten repeatedly Monday to pull the plug. Obama, they said, was giving in too much to Republican demands at the point where he had maximum leverage.

"I just think that's grossly unfair," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a liberal leader, said in a Senate speech Monday objecting to the deal. "If we're going to have some kind of a deal, the deal must be one that really favors the middle class — the real middle class."

Even after most Democratic senators made their peace with the deal, influential liberal groups such as denounced it for providing too little and conceding too much.

White House aides disputed that argument. They pointed to Democratic priorities included in the deal — tax credits aimed at students, parents and the working poor were extended for five years, for example, and long-term unemployment benefits were extended for a year.